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Every swimmer mattered at MSC

Every swimmer mattered at MSC
Every swimmer mattered at MSC
Hand in hand at the edge of Salem's pool deck, Corydon Central celebrates capturing the Mid-Southern Conference girls' swimming championship Thursday. Photos by Brian Smith

It’s easy to ignore the humidity when competition comes down to the final event at the Mid-Southern Conference girls’ swimming meet Thursday at Salem.
All feet, voices and waiving hands were on deck; Corydon Central in lane three and North Harrison in lane four. Side-by-side, the rivals figured to be dueling at the top of the leaderboard when it came to event 11, the 400-yard freestyle relay.
First off the blocks for the Lady Panthers was the program’s lone senior, Zoe Pierce. Battling back from a knee injury sustained last spring, her return to the water proved sweet. Teammates Joelle Cox, Jillian Pittman and Melissa King expanded the lead over the Lady Cats during the final event as team-es crowded the turn to shout encouragement.
Corydon Central touched the final wall in 4:20.17, ahead of the North Harrison (4:41) team of Rachel Purser, Hannah Ingle, Josie Hayse and Alaina Sears.
When the announcer called North Harrison as the meets’ runner-up, Corydon Central swimmers began to scream, embrace and start the celebration. It took them a while before someone mentioned the final score. Their initial celebration drowned out the public-address announcer.
200-199.
‘Won by one point, what the heck,’ questioned a voice in a crowd of Lady Panthers.
‘This was one of the best ones to win,’ Corydon Central coach Loretta Ettinger said. ‘It’s one we will remember for a long time. It makes it even more fun when it’s this close.’
The results from the 400-free relay mimicked the remaining two relay events. Both the 200-free and 200-medley relays went first place Corydon Central and second place North Harrison.
Records also fell on the evening as Corydon Central standout Gracie Saulman posted new MSC best in the 100 breaststroke and 100 butterfly.
Saulman, like the rest of her teammates, was on edge during the final swim.
‘That was really scary and intense,’ Saulman said. ‘We didn’t know if we were going to win today. We took it event by event.’
Saulman set a new personal benchmark in the fly, clipping the one-minute mark with a time of 59.74 seconds.
‘In the 100 fly, I was able to do a 59.9 in December, then I just did my best time here today in 59.7,’ she said. ‘It was a really nice swim. I’ve gone under a minute twice now, which is good. I feel like I was stuck right at a minute for a long time.’
The previous MSC record time was 1:02.45 in the fly, set by Saulman’s sister, Katie. Within the race Thursday, North Harrison’s Ingle was third (1:17.81) and Corydon Central’s Erica Wood was fourth (1:22.29).
In the meet’s final individual event, Saulman swam a 1:10.43 in the 100 breaststroke, her second-best personal time. It also knocked a little more than four seconds off the previous MSC best.
Finishing behind Saulman in the breast was a host of North Harrison swimmers: Maddy Marinc (second, 1:22.23), Sears (fourth, 1:28.10) and Brooklyn Wernert (fifth, 1:33.19).
In the meet’s first event, the 200-medley relay, Wood, Saulman, King and Harper swam a time of 2:03.06 to hold off North Harrison’s time of 2:08.3 with Shannia Austin, Natalie Robertson, Marinc and Ingle in the water.
The middle relay, the 200 free, also went to Corydon Central. Harper, Pierce, Wood and Saulman swam in 1:53.23, bettering North Harrison by four seconds. Swimmers for North Harrison were Purser, Austin, Robertson and Marinc.
North Harrison had a pair of individual winners with Austin taking the 100 backstroke and Marinc the 500 freestyle.
Austin was locked in a tight battle with Corydon Central’s King, but her time of 1:08.25 was enough to earn the Lady Cats a win. King completed the event in 1:09.14, while North Harrison’s Alexus Blessinger was sixth (1:22.83).
Marinc won going away in the distance race, completing the many turns in 6:09.3. She was followed by Corydon Central’s Pierce in second (6:38.2), Cox in fourth (7:00.9) and North Harrison’s Josie Hayse in sixth (7:05.1).
Melissa King earned another win for Corydon Central in the 200-individual medley (2:38.6).
Corydon Central also had key runner-up finishes with Pierce in the 200 free (2:21.19) and Harper in the 50 (27.85) and 100 (1:03.05) freestyles. The pair, along with Cox, have return from injury to compete.
‘We had three different swimmers come back from injury,’ Ettinger said. ‘Joelle (Cox) had an ankle injury and (Brianna Harper) has been battling a shoulder blade. She performed tonight and has been battling to get back. Zoe, our only senior, had major knee surgery in June, and she hardly kicks. It’s all upper body with her. For her to do what she has done is amazing.’
Other notable finishes for Corydon Central were: Cox (fifth, 200 free, 2:29.14), Pittman (fourth, 200 IM, 3:01.61) and Wood (fourth, 50 free, 28.64). For North Harrison: Purser (third, 200 free, 2:22.11; fifth, 100 free, 1:06.21), Robertson (third, 50 free, 28.61; sixth, 100 free, 1:07.81), Hayse (sixth, 200 free, 2:31.72), Ingle (third, 200 IM, 2:51.81), Thompson (sixth, 200 IM, 3:10.39), Blessinger (sixth, 50 free, 31.21) and Austin (third, 100 free, 1:03.35).
North Harrison coach Andy Pappano said his team is young and will seek to continue to improve.
Ettinger, thinking back to the one-point difference, said those coming back from injury helped along with the entire roster.
‘We are proud of all those girls that were hurt that came back that did so well tonight. It’s also a true statement: every person counts,’ she said. ‘It really does. Even the swimmer that pulls a 12th (place finish) because that is one point. Sometimes they may think they don’t matter or they aren’t as fast as the others, but they do matter. We don’t need you to be faster than everyone else; we want you to push through your event, do your best, and it’ll work out.’
The sights are now set on the postseason, which will begin next week. Saulman qualified for state as a freshman and is hungry to get back as a sophomore.
‘I want to get back to state again,’ said Saulman, whose training includes swimming in the mornings and afternoons. ‘At sectional, I plan on swimming the 100 free and the (200) IM instead of the 50 free. I hope to win both of those and look to go 52 in the 100 free. I’ve gone 52 once, 52.99, but would like to do it again.’
‘She’s amazing,’ Ettinger said of Saulman. ‘She’s going to do well at sectional. It will be fun to watch her because she will have strong competition from Jeffersonville, New Albany and others, but she’s ready and pumped for it. She practices really hard.’
The girls’ swimming and diving sectional, hosted by Floyd Central, will take place Thursday, Feb. 2 (swimming preliminaries), and Saturday, Feb. 4 (diving, swimming consolations and finals). Requirements to advance to the state final: first-place sectional winners in each event plus any contestant who equals or betters the state-time standards.

Team scores ‘ 1. Corydon Central 300, 2. North Harrison 299, 3. Scottsburg 184, 4. Salem 169, 5. Charlestown 94, 6. Silver Creek 60.
Individual results ‘ 200 medley relay: 1. Corydon Central (E. Wood, G. Saulman, M. King, B. Harper) 2:03.06, 2. North Harrison (S. Austin, M. Marinc, H. Ingle, N. Robertson); 200 free: 1. R. Locke (Sco) 2:19.83, 2. Z. Pierce (CC); 200 IM: 1. M. King (CC) 2:38.6, 2. K. Grayson (Ch); 50 free: 1. H. Motsinger (Sal) 27.34, 2. B. Harper (CC); 100 fly: 1. G. Saulman (CC) 59.74, 2. K. Grayson (Ch); 100 free: 1. H. Motsinger (Sal) 1:00.67, 2. 2. B. Harper (CC); 500 free: 1. M. Marinc (NH) 6:09.3, 2. Z. Pierce (CC); 200 free relay: 1. Corydon Central (B. Harper, Z. Pierce, E. Wood, G. Saulman) 1:53.23, 2. North Harrison (S. Austin, N. Robertson, R. Purser, M. Marinc); 100 back: 1. S. Austin (NH) 1:08.25, 2. M. King (CC); 100 breast: 1. G. Saulman (CC) 1:10.43, 2. M. Marinc (NH); 400 free relay: 1. Corydon Central (Z. Pierce, J. Cox, J. Pittman, M. King) 4:20.17, 2. North Harrison (R. Purser, H. Ingle, J. Hayse, A. Sears).

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